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Fairytale Bicycle Route

The bicycle Fairytale Route or Märchenroute is a sister to the much longer automobile Deutsche Märchen Strasse or German Fairytale Road. This road traces the lifetime travels of the Brothers Grimm from their birthplace in Hanau (near Frankfurt) to Bremen, the northernmost reaches of their work in recording folktales and fables.

Tour Overview: July 1999 and May 2011. This 7-day ride will take you over part of the Märchen Route or Fairytale Route in the Hessisches Bergland. The total distance of the ride is 276 miles or 444 kilometers. For part of this ride, we are joined by our nephew and his wife from Seattle, Rick and Susan Burleigh.

Path Conditions: The terrain is rolling hills but in three places, you will make major climbs with wonderful downhill drops. Otherwise, the hills are gentle and rolling. Only a few of the hills are steep enough to make us dismount and push.

Signage: Path Sign LossetalPath Sign R-17Path Sign R-11Path Sign severalPath Sign R-4Path Sign R-4Path Sign R-1Path Sign Herkules-WartburgSignage is interesting, to say the least. Starting from Bahnhof Kassel-Wilhelmshöhe, you will join and follow the Herkules-Wartburg path to the Karlsaue park and the Orangerie. There you join R-1, cross the Drahtbrücke and follow the R-1 signs to Bad Karlshafen. From Bad Karlshafen follow the R-4 signs all the way to Ziegenheim. From Ziegenheim to Oberaula (or Wahlshausen just beyond Oberaule) you will be on R-17 but from there on, follow R-11. When you cross the Fulda at Niederaula you pick up R-1 again, which you follow to Bebra. From Bebra-Lispenhausen follow R-5 through Sontra to Eschwege on the Werra. Then you will follow the Werratal route to Witzenhausen. From Witzenhausen, follow the Herkules-Wartburg path again back to Kassel.

Path Sign Maerchen RoutePath Sign Maerchen RouteAlong the way, you may see signs with a green swoosh and a graphic of a green bike and rider such as is on the guidebook below. As we ride this route again in 2011, we note that these green swoosh signs are few and far between whereas the R-1, R-4, Herkules-Wartburg, etc. signs are plentiful.

Llotterberg-verlag GuidebookMaps and Guidebooks: In 1999 we used Deutsche Radtourenkarte No. 21, 1:100,000, published by Haupka Verlag, and available in most German bookstores. In 2011, we used two different maps, Habicthwald Reinhardswald 1:50,000 and Kurhessische Bergland, 1:50,000 both published by Hessisches Landesamt und Geoinformation in 2008. Another suggestion is the guidebook Märchen Route Im Nordhessischen Bergland published by Lotterberg-Verlag but we think that this book is out of print so you will have to purchase a used version on (German version of The guidebook suggestion is the source of much of the information below however paraphrased for ease in consumption by non-German speakers. We have taken some liberty with the route described in the reference, however, we think we have improved upon it by finding less hilly routes and we have shortened the tour too.

Accommodations: There are adequate accommodations along the route. However, northern Germany is not as touristy as southern Germany and the opportunities are fewer. As a choice, we prefer Zimmer (advertised as Zimmer Frei) but there are also Gasthäuser (Guest Houses), Pensionen (pensions or bed and breakfasts), Jugendherbergen (Youth Hostels), and hotels. For a complete discussion of the different types of accommodations and tips on reservations, see our Overnight Accommodations page.

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Day 1: Kassel to Bad Karlshafen

Day Overview: Today’s ride takes you from Kassel-Wilhelmshöhe Bahnhof (the most used train station in Kassel and served by high-speed ICE trains) to the banks of the Fulda. Then you follow the river to Hann. Münden. From there, follow the Weser River North past Reinhardshagen to Bad Karlshafen. While mostly paved, there is a 10-kilometer portion along the Fulda that is hard packed gravel. Beyond that, only a tiny bit of gravel between Hann. Münden and Bad Karlshafen.

Pick Axe Documenta ArtStaats TheaterFriedrichs PlatzOrangerie from distanceOrangerie closer upMile 0: Starting at the Kassel-Wilhelmshöhe Bahnhof, ride north one block (200 meters) and take the first possible left. Then take the first right on Göethe Strasse and ride north, downhill towards the city center and the Fulda River. You will notice several Herkules-Wartburg signs along the way.

Mile 2.4 (3.8 km): After you cross Fünffensterstrasse and are riding west on Neue Strasse, turn right on Opernstrasse and ride down and across Friedrichs Platz and across Frankfurter Strasse. Follow the Herkules-Wartburg signs past the Staats Theater and turn down the side street to the Orangerie.

Mile 2.9 (4.6 km): Ride behind the Orangerie to Aue Damm and turn left to the Drahtbrücke (about 300 meters). You are now on R-1. R-1 begins just north of the Bavarian border and ends in Bad Karlshafen. On some maps, this route is alternately marked HR-1, which stands for Hessischer Radfernweg or Fernradweg (Hessen's long-distance bike route) or Fuldaradweg. We follow these R-1 signs all the way to Bad Karlshafen.

Graue Katze Roter KaterSpiekershausenMile 8.5 (13.7 km): Graue Katze Restaurant. We just passed a two-horse carriage that was carrying celebrants to a wedding or a reception. It was loaded with flowers and the horses were all decked out in their Sunday finest harnesses (do horses attend Sunday Meetings?). The road was narrow and the carriage driver pulls as far to the right as he can – inviting us to pass. We do so but we are nervous about how the horses, who have blinders on, might react when bicycles suddenly pass them. These horses are well behaved and apparently, they are used to cyclists. The party is headed for the restaurant, a popular spot for day-trips out of Kassel for a bite to eat and to enjoy the Fulda and the view across the river of Spiekershausen.

If you like, you can overnight here at Graue Katze/Roter Kater. The rooms vary around €70 per night for two people in one room.

We meet several sixty-plus cyclists who are just beginning a bicycle tour of the Weser River to their hometown of Bremen (see our Weser Tour). They think the ride will take 7 days. They are stopping for lunch and ordering beer. We usually abstain from beer during the day, biking can present sudden challenges for which one needs their senses as sharp as they can be. Oh well, they were from strong local stock that may have developed a tolerance to beer.

Mile 10.6 (17.0 km): Continuing, we cross a cute covered bridge over one of the many streams that flow into the Fulda. The river bends back on itself here creating an oxbow and we are on the outside of the bend. Across the river, inside the bend is Gut Kragenhof. A Gut is a set of buildings for a large farm. A Hof, by contrast, is also a farm building but a Hof includes a dwelling for people and the barn all in the same structure. By the way, the German word "Hof" has a lot of other meanings that we do not mention here. A farm hof typically forms an L or a U shape with the barnyard in the middle. And Kragen is – or was – the owner’s name.

On the right and uphill is Simmershausen, a portion of the town of Fuldatal the town where the fairytale Hans in Luck is based. In this fairytale, Hans, who had just completed his 7-year vocational apprenticeship, was paid a lump of gold. As he made his way through Fuldatal, he traded his hard-earned lump of gold first for a horse, and then he traded the horse for a cow, then the cow for a pig, then the pig for a goose and finally the goose for a grindstone. Obviously, one would question the business acumen of someone who traded away 7-years work for a grindstone, right? Well, it gets worse. Upon losing the grindstone down a well, Hans proclaimed, “I am the luckiest man on Earth.” And with a light heart and no weight of wealth upon his shoulders, he walked home to his mother.

The message? Perhaps people unburdened with wealth have a happier life.Speele

Mile 16.7 (26.8 km): There is an informational sign on the lock at Wilhelmshausen that shows the elevations of the Fulda at Kassel and at the confluence with the Werra at Hann. Münden. At Kassel, the elevation is 135.82 meters and at the confluence, the elevation is 119.65 meters. Converting the difference to feet, it becomes a total drop of only 53 feet. By the way, there are four locks between Kassel and Hann. Münden and they all generate electricity.

Waiting out a shower under the bridge to Hann MuendenMile 20.5.0 (33.0 km): Bridge into Hann. Münden. This will take you into the old town part of Hann. Münden. You can learn more at the city's website, This is one of the best-preserved Fachwerk Stadt or half-timbered town in Germany. The town was established before 1247. That website will also connect you to the possibility of making an overnight reservation.

There is a small Schloss or palace here and on the hill overlooking the town is a defensive structure called the Tilly Schanze

In the Rathaus, (town hall) there are murals that tell of floods, being conquered by the Swede Tilly in the 17th Century and a doctor Eisenbart who died here in 1727.

Doctor Eisenbart was thought to be a quack. Many thought his methods were ill-advised and some of his patients died. Later however, some of his methods were held to be correct and ahead of their time. Not soon enough though to prevent a catchy tune about his quackery becoming popular among school-age children. The Rathaus glockenspiel [see photograph on left] plays this tune at Noon, 3:00 PM and 5:00 PM daily.

Bike path along a busy roadMile 21.3 (34.3 km): Bridge to the right bank. Today we are going to ride on the left bank following the R-1 signs. The path is next to a busy road for several kilometers but at least we are separated from the automobiles.

However, we sometimes recommend crossing the Weser at the bridge just north of the city. The signs on the right bank will be for the Wesertal Radfernweg (Weser Valley Long Distance Bike Route). There is less traffic on this side of the river making the ride more enjoyable. On the upside, using this path will give you the opportunity to use one of the small ferries that cross the Weser at Reinhardshagen. On the downside, there is a hill on that side. Hey, nothing is perfect, ask Hans or Gretel.

We are riding between two of the largest forests in Germany. On the left is Bramwald and to the right, across the river is Reinhardswald. Reinhardswald is the setting of the Hansel and Gretel fairytale. There in the forest, poor Hansel and Grete got lost after the birds ate their trail of crumbs. There the hapless children stumbled upon a gingerbread house in the forest, the home of a witch. The wicked witch would have cooked and eaten them had not they used their wits and escaped her nefarious plan.

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Mile 28.1 (45.2 km): We stop at Hotel Peter in Reinhardshagen for coffee but this is also the ferry landing if you are crossing from the other side. The ferry cost is €1.00 (1999 price) each. Reinhardshagen is a town that combines two older towns of Vaake and Veckerhagen. There is an information booth in the center of Veckerhagen on Müllerstrasse. It is about two blocks east and two blocks south of the ferry. If you opt to overnight in Reinhardshagen, consider the 500-year-old Historiches Brauhaus (“Historical Brewery”) in Veckerhagen, Kirchplatz 9. Our experience here in Reinhardshagen in 1999 proves once again that staying in the smaller villages is less expensive than staying in the larger towns and cities.

HochstaendeHochstaendeMile 32.3 (52.0 km): As we ride through the rolling hills slightly above the river we notice two wooden Hochstände in the field below us. Hochstände are a common sight in this part of Germany, especially in areas where deer abound. Local hunters erect them and sit in them for hours during hunting season. I understand that hunting deer by walking around is not done here.

GlashuetteBursfeldeYou are across from Bursfelde. What appears to be a double-spired church in Bursfelde is actually two churches the western church was originally built sometime before 1104 as a Benedictine cloister. The eastern-most church was built between 1130 and 1140. Both churches have frescos according to our Baedeker guide. We decide not to stop because we do not have a bridge at this point.

Radfahrer absteigenMile 42.3 (68.1 km): We take a picture of a caution sign with the words Radfahrer absteigen. This is a short but very steep drop to a hard left turn at the bottom. They want you to get off and walk your bicycle downhill. We never do but we do ride slowly downhill.

Mile 47.5 (76.4 km): We stop for the night in Bad Karlshafen. This town has an interesting history but it is most notable to Americans as one of the ports from which German mercenary soldiers departed for the United States during our American Revolution. The mercenaries were called Hessians because of the 30,000 or so mercenaries employed by the British crown to put down the revolting colonists in America, 13,000 were from the German state of Hessia or Hesse (German Hessen). The rank and file of these men were conscripts pressed into military duty because they owed loyalty to a Landgrave or because they were in debt or in debtors prison. Some were criminal prisoners guilty of violent crimes. Of the 13,000 Hessian troops shipped to America, about 7,000 did not return to Germany but settled in the new United States of America. Why? Well, some were criminals who simply were not welcome back in the old country but many others were bribed to stay by an act of Congress who sought new citizens to settle the west, which at that time was Pennsylvania and Ohio. Others were bribed, again by an act of Congress, to desert and they were given land in Pennsylvania as a reward.

We have an opportunity to visit the Huguenot Museum and we learn a lot about this religious group. Huguenots were followers of John Calvin who himself was a follower of Martin Luther. During the 16th to the 18th Century, the Huguenots flourished. Their settlements were mostly in France but some were in what is current day Switzerland and northern Italy. They were a minority who were persecuted by the Catholic majority for generations. Interestingly, a French king who converted from being a Huguenot back to Catholicism is seen as responsible for the Massacre of St. Bartholomew Feast and event that was the impetus of their diaspora.

The Huguenot diaspora was mostly into northern Europe and the British Isles even into Russia. Additionally, some moved to the Americas. They were invited by fellow Protestant Landgrave (Count) Carl from Hesse to resettle in northern Hesse. The Huguenots were known to be expert artisans, farmers, and builders. The count wanted them to design and build the town of Bad Karlshafen as a showplace of his wealth and power.Bad KarlshafenBad KarlshafenSalt Wall Bad KarlshafenHarbor Bad Karlshafen

We stay at Komfort-Pension Fuhrhop; owned by B. Janke-Fuhrhop; Friedrichstr. 15; telephone 05672/404; email; website, the price is €76 per night for two people. The list two bed rooms at €38-€40 per person per night. However, in most places with the name “Bad” (which means bath in English) there is a city tax on tourist and those who stay here for a cure. In this case, the tax is €2.00 per person so the total cost for the night is €40 per person.

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Day 2: Bad Karlshafen to Zierenberg

Day Overview: Today any fit and aggressive cyclists may opt to ride an alternate route up to the Sababurg the castle where the princess in the fairytale Sleeping Beauty awoke after her 100-year sleep to the kiss of her handsome prince. This alternate route would be a hilly ride and add 10 miles (16 km) but since we are card-carrying members of the “Over 50 with Bad Knees Club,” we choose the flat river valleys. Riding conditions are pleasant if it were not for the rain. We also detested sharing the road for 10 miles between Niedermeiser and Zierenberg. Otherwise, we were happy campers.

Mile 0.6 (1.0 km): Leave Bad Karlshafen following both R-4, which is our route, and R-8, the Diemel route that we have done several times in the past. We are riding on an abandoned railroad grade. Although most of it is gravel, it is easy riding. The railroad was called Friedrich-Welhelm-Nord-Bahn that was first laid in 1848 (100 years before I was born). The railroad was to connect Bad Karlshafen to Hümme and then over a pass and connect to the Fulda Valley. They removed the tracks in 1966. Today, Bad Karlshafen and Hümme are small communities with tourism and agriculture among the major industries but it was not always so. Bad Karlshafen was a trade center, more important commercially than Kassel; although Kassel was the seat of government for much of the time.

Krukenburg RuinKrukenburgMile 2.2 (3.6 km): At Helmarshausen we see the Krukenburg, a thirteenth-century castle and monastery ruin overlooking the Diemel river valley. We visit it in 1999. There are two ways up to the ruin and we choose the path rather than the street because it seems shorter. One can ride almost to the castle but the path gets steep, too steep for safe riding. The monks took this path to the village below. From the valley floor, it’s 220 feet to the Krukenburg and then 125 stone steps up the tower to enjoy the panoramic vista from the top of the tower. There is a Museum Krukenburg in Helmarshausen below that has a display titled Burg und Kunst or Castle and Art. They are open daily except for the midday pause. We don’t stop at the museum but the guidebook says it is worth a look.

Mile 4.8 (7.8 km): Wülmersen. From here, if you want to, you can turn left and ride to the Sababurg where Sleeping Beauty over-centuried, to coin a word. You will rejoin the R-4 just past Hofgeismar. In Wülmersen there is a ruin of a Wasserschloss, or a moated castle. There is not much to see but if you like castles, this is one you do not have to climb up a hill to visit.

Mile 5.0 (8.1 km): We stop to photograph an abandoned tunnel on the railroad grade. Apparently, the tunnel is no longer safe because there is a short, steep, 70-foot hill that the path takes to go over the hill that the tunnel cut through.

Abandoned tunnel on railroad trailTrendelburgMile 8.4 (13.5 km): Trendelburg. The photo on the right shows the Burg (castle) atop the hill from our approach to the little city. This castle is where the beautiful Princess Rapunzel, of fairytale fame, let down her hair from the tower in which she was locked and allowed a charming prince to climb into her chambers. What he had in mind I am sure I do not know. Why she would put up with so much pain and discomfort as to have a grown man pulling on her hair with all his weight I am also at a loss to explain. Perhaps being a member of the Club (you know, over 50, etc.) causes me to forget what hormones can do to the younger generation.

Across from Stammen SchlossSchloss StammenMile 10.5 (16.9 km): In the village of Stammen I photographed the Schloss, which is now senior housing. In contrast to the well maintained Schloss, the photograph on the left is the building across the street that is, well, uh, not so well maintained. It does show how the space between the half-timbered timbers is filled though. Other places on this decrepit building, the spaces are filled with straw and mud, a construction technique that is more common and older than using bricks.

Mile 12.1 (19.5 km): Hümme.

Schoeneberg ChurchMile 16.3 (26.3 km): We pass though Schöneberg, another of the several Huguenot villages in the area. Neither the map nor the guidebook indicated that we would pass through this village but we are following the path signs and here we are. I take a picture of the church here. It is locally famous as one of the older churches in the surrounding area.

Gesundbrunnen ChurchLeaving Schöneberg, we enter Hofgeismar through the community of Gesundbrunnen (healthy well) and I photograph their church too.

HofgeismarHofgeismarHofgeismarHof near HofgeismarIn 1999, we arrived at Hofgeismar just in time to be drenched by a rain squall. We are tired and wet but we need a place to stay. We choose the Hans im Glück Hotel, slightly more than we usually pay but it is clean and just on the edge of the downtown area. Recall I told you the fairytale about Hans in Luck? Luck is Glück in German.

Hofgeismar is a really old community. It was first settled over 7,000 years ago. It was a seat of power as early as 1082. Today, however, one finds only the half-timbered buildings from the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. For me, that is enough. The city is larger than we expected and the newer part is, well, newer.

Mile 18.6 (30.0 km): As we leave Hofgeismar, we know that we have one of the longest hills on the tour to master. Maxa has rented an e-bike for this ride so she passes me and scoots up to the top without breaking a sweat. But I sweat profusely climbing the 350-foot grade. Not only am I sweating but I am wearing raingear against the cold rain we find ourselves in. So under the raingear, I am probably wetter than if I had no rain gear.

Mile 22.4 (36.0 km): After topping another smaller and gentler hill we drop 415 feet down into Zwergen. We stop here for our picnic lunch under an umbrella left there for other purposes but today, we use it. Zwergen is on the Warme River but it is a very small river. We will ride up this river valley to Zierenberg. Shortly after we leave Zwergen, we join a Landstrasse or a road used by local traffic. It is not the highest traffic road but it is much busier than we like and certainly not what we are used to in Germany. Plus it is pouring rain and every time a car or truck passes us, we are sprayed with road grit.

Mile 31.6 (50.9 km): In the rain and after 10 miles of hilly, busy road riding, I am completely exhausted. We stop here in Zierenberg at Kassler Hof, next to the Zierenberg Rathaus. They charge €58 for a double room for one night. We enjoy a wonderful meal and a good conversation with chef and owner’s husband Klaus Zaun and he speaks English. He tells us the history of the building which includes being a meeting place for the local NSDP (read that as Nazis) in the mid to late 1930’s. Juxtaposed to that use, the same room was used by the occupation forces as a court to try people for crimes and other misdeeds. Kassler Hof is owned by Martina Zaun; Marktplatz 2, 34289 Zierenberg; telephone 05606/3281; website; email

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Day 3: Zierenberg to Fritzlar

Day Overview: Today you have two hills to climb, one first thing in the morning leaving Hofgeismar and one later in the day between Ehlen and Altenhasungen. The first hill is 370 feet and the second is 310. There are two redeeming features; first, is that the hills are gradual and second, each has a great downhill. (Every cloud has a silver lining, right?) While the path will be paved all day, you will be riding on the shoulder of lightly traveled roads over half of the time.

Mile 0: Zierenberg Rathaus (Town Hall). We pick up R-4 at the bottom of the hill and follow the signs out of town to the west.

Mile 2.9 (4.9 km): Turn right following signs toward Wolfhagen. Here you will begin to climb a series of hills that total one long hill. It rises over 300 feet in 3 kilometers. At the top, you will have to choose between riding up another hill for another half mile to see a ruin of a cloister at Burghasungen. Since we have the choice of going uphill or downhill, we choose downhill and bypass the cloister. I am a better bike rider than a seer of sights, at least downhill.

Mile 19.7 (31.7 km): The downhill side is much steeper than the hill we climbed. I love to let the bike build speed on steep drops like this.

In 1999 I had so much fun; I missed the sign at Wenigenhasungen about halfway down directing us off to the left. Instead, I finally apply the breaks at the bottom in a small village of Altenhasungen. Our choice is once again, ride uphill and pick up the trail again or stay down on the valley floor. Guess what we do. Because of our sloth, we found a flatter (therefore better in my book) route into Wolfhagen than the R-4.

This time (2011) we do turn at the R-4 sign and continue downhill to Wenigenhasungen. The total drop is 380 feet to here.

Mile 7.5 (12.0 km): This is Philippinenburg and we ride uphill through the village only to drop into Wolfhagen from the top of the hill in Philippinenburg.

Wolfhagen has a lot to brag about. It has over 300 restored half-timbered or Fachwerk homes and buildings. The town square is so photogenic with the small restaurant and Konditorei in the foreground and the fourteenth-century church in the background. As we snap photographs, an artist is painting the scene in watercolors – painting quickly intent on capturing the colors of the setting sun before they disappear for the night.

Wolfhagen has had a violent and tumultuous history. It has been built up and torn down, occupied, burned, and plagued throughout their long history. The citizens must have developed a sense of humor or they wouldn’t have survived. The Saxons conquered the area in a bloody rampage. Then the village was burned down (by accident or more than likely by some enemy). Then came the plague, not once but several times between the late 1500's to the late 1600's. Once they even burned their own village to rid themselves of the plague-carrying rats. Then came the 30-year war when the landgrave’s army occupied the village. The population of the village dropped from 370 to 81 during 1637; presumably caused by both the plague and the war.

The Huguenots from France came next starting in 1695. Wolfhagen folks must have thought it was another plague because the Huguenots moved in all over this region. (Remember, Landgrave Carl from Hesse had invited them.) I understand the native Wolfhagen folks did not give the Huguenots a polite welcome. But the Huguenots stayed anyway. Many of them settled first in Carlsdorf, close by.

Then there was the 7-year war between France to the south and England and Prussia (1756 - 1763). Both sides occupied (were quartered in) Wolfhagen but not at the same time, of course. Once Napoleon got his comeuppances at Waterloo, more Huguenots moved in. For the native citizens of Wolfhagen, troubles just did not seem to end. And you know about World Wars I and II.

There is a castle worth seeing here, not only because of the small museum but also because it is easy to imagine fighting off the Catholics and the French from the walls of this classic structure. The church is nice too. Construction on it began in 1250 and completed in 1350 but the tower was not completed until 1561. It is built in German special gothic style – which must be a sub-school of architecture.

Mile 10.9 (17.6 km): Wolfhagen is the bottom of another hill that we need to climb over to drop into the Eder River drainage. Leaving Wolfhagen, we climb toward Ippinghausen but turn just before the village.

As you climb you will see the Weidelsberg Castle above Ippinghausen on the far hill to the left and if you look back toward Wolfhagen, you will find a photo opportunity of a neat little walled, red tiled German town with a castle and a steepled church. Beautiful. Scenes like this make me come back to this region.

Mile 14.0 (22.6 km): Crossing the Landstrasse near Ippinghausen we follow a gravel path downhill through the forest. Some people will consider detouring to the Weidelsberg Ruin on the hilltop to your right. We don’t because the castle is intermittently hidden in the clouds today so we assume that the advertised spectacular view is not so spectacular at the moment. Built on a basalt outcropping, this is an excellent example of North Hesse’s castle ruins. You will find gates, towers with steps, and expertly crafted basalt stonemasonry. You will probably have to leave your bikes at the end of the road and walk up to the ruin. (We came back later by car to explore the area. We discovered that there is no good road to the ruin.) If you keep on this path, you’ll have another mile of corncob-rough path to negotiate. In spite of the rough road, the forest is beautiful and quiet.

Mile 16.3 (26.3 km): We have reached more paved path finally because the gravel was newly put down and was very rough.

NaumburgMile 17.8 (28.6 km): Naumburg. This is one end of the track of an antique train called the Hessencourier. You can buy tickets for €25 each at the Kassel-Wilhelmshöher Bahnhof for this train for a ride from Kassel to Naumburg and back but advance reservations are needed. It runs once or once a day on Saturday, Sunday and holidays.

Mile 19.9 (32.0 km): Elbenberg is named after the Elbe, a stream that is a tributary to the Eder River. There is a major river also called the Elbe in eastern Germany flowing into the North Sea.

Zuechen RathausZuechen TowerZuechen TowerMile 25.0 (40.2 km): Züschen and photographs of two of its towers and its Rathaus. There is a Schloss here that has been converted into a nice restaurant if you are hungry and want to have an experience.

Mile 28.5 (45.8 km): In Geismar I note that the symbol of the town is an ax, presumably the one that St. Boniface used to chop down the oak tree here. Interestingly, it seems that both Geismar and Fritzlar think that the tree that St. Boniface chopped down was in their town.

Mile 30.3 (48.7 km): This is the Altstadt (old town) of Fritzlar through the town wall and then turn right following the wall into the town center. Fritzlar is an old historic center of power. The bombs of WWII did not damage Fritzlar much so the town square is still picturesque full of half-timbered buildings mixed with gothic and Baroque architecture.FritzlarFritzlarFritzlarFritzlar

In downtown Fritzlar, I photographed the Tourist Office and the house next door. Both are unique half-timbered buildings. The gray Tourist Office was built in 1415 and the brown house was built in 1360.

Almost 1,300 years ago, St. Boniface (Bonifatius), the Apostle of the Germans, felled an oak tree that was a holy shrine of the local Chatti tribe (der Chatten) and used the lumber therefrom to build a church. (Now, editorially speaking, I would like to know what the Chatti thought of this blasphemous treatment of their holy shrine. History - as written by the Christians, fails to inform.) That was 723 and he must have been successful in convincing the Chatti that Christianity was a good thing because they didn't kill him. He was killed (martyred) in 754 in what is now Holland. I wonder if he was in the process of chopping down another holy shrine. But I digress.

A settlement developed around the church. It was situated at an important crossroads of trade routes so it soon became a thriving community. The Holy Roman Emperor, Charlemagne, (Karl, der Grossen) endowed Fritzlar with a royal palace. From there until just recently, (measured in centuries, not months) Fritzlar was in its heyday. The home of kings, Kaisers and important clerics, Fritzlar was both a religious and a political power center until well after the thirty-years war (1618 - 1648). That war was terribly damaging to this part of Germany, causing the ruin and rebuilding and ruin again of almost every city and town in the surrounding area. You remember, the thirty-years war was over who gets the "hearts and minds" of the people - Catholics from Rome or Lutherans from Germany. Believe me, it was a big thing it this part of the world.

We stay the evening in Restaurant Hotel Domgarten owned by Bernhard Aue, Neustädter Str. 9, 34560 Fritzlar; telephone 05622/91760; email; website The hotel is on the bike path just south of the central square. The room is large and there is a very good restaurant in the hotel.

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Day 4: Frtizlar to Neukirchen

Day Overview: Interestingly, we start today by being confused by signage. Shortly after leaving Fritzlar, we are dutifully following the R-4 signs and realized that the signs seemed to be leading us the wrong way – to Wabern. The route described in the guidebook took us due south, over hill and dale to Kleinenglis but the map took us first to Wabern. After three kilometers in the direction of Wabern, we reverse our steps and do pick our way south to Kleinenglis along the route described in our 13-year old guidebook. By the time we reconnect with the currently signed R-4 past Kleinenglis, we are convinced that although a slight bit longer, following the currently signed R-4 through Wabern would be the preferable route for all those in the OFBK Club (Over Fifty with Bad Knees Club). Either way, the path is in good condition but we do encounter a total of 7 kilometers of gravel path in 3 or 4 different sections.

Mile 0.0: Since our hotel is on the bike path and close to town center Fritzlar, we start our cyclometers at the hotel.

FritzlarFritzlarMile 0.4 (0.7 km): We cross over an old bridge that according to the sign is from the 14th Century. The sign also goes on to say that artists have been painting pictures from this point for hundreds of years. I understand why; because in the background of the bridge are the twin towers of the Dom (Cathedral) and a couple of the town wall towers as well. It is very picturesque.

Mile 3.3 (5.3 km): We first follow the R-4 signs to the east toward Wabern then we get to thinking, that is not the way the guidebook suggests we take go and the guidebook is using R-4. After we ride back to the bridge and reason it out, we realize that R-4 has been recently (within the last 5 years) changed. It now goes to Wabern, then follows a railroad grade to Kleinenglis. We decide to follow the guidebook but after climbing over hill and dale, decide that the Wabern way, or the way R-4 is currently signed makes a lot of sense. It is a little longer but it is also less hilly.

Mile 9.2 (14.8 km): Just after riding down a steep drop through Kleinenglis, we meet up again with the signed R-4 route. We probably saved ourselves a few kilometers getting here but paid the price in elevation gain and loss along the way.

Mile 11.4 (18.3 km): Riding through Kerstenhausen I notice some familiar buildings. Maxa tells me that is because we drive through here every time we visit her aunt in Marburg.

Bad Zwesten RathausBad Zwesten Half-timbered homesMile 13.3 (21.4 km): We stop for a break at an Italian ice cream restaurant in Bad Zwesten. We order our Kännchen Koffee and then struck by an irresistible desire, we also order ice cream.

Mile 18.2 (29.3 km): Just past Neuental-Buschausen, we experience another change to R-4. Our 2-year old map indicates that the route should go to Zimmersrode but the path signs direct us south along a railroad before we get to Zimmersrode. That is good because I can tell from the topographical lines on the map that this is a flatter and more direct route.Mill at Neuental-Buschausen

Mile 19.6 (31.6 km): Neuental-Waltersbrück.

Mile 21.9 (35.2 km): Schlierbach.

Mile 23.9 (38.4 km): We cheat riding into Allendorf. R-4 would have taken us over a small hill but the lightly traveled road goes along the river so we take the road and see two other cyclists and one car.

Zeigenhain HotelZeigenhainMile 28.3 (45.5 km): This morning we planned to stay in Zeigenhain but now that we are here and the sun is shining and we are not that tired, we just duck into town, take a couple of pictures, have a coffee and a beer and continue on our way to Neukirchen. We choose the wonderful half-timbered restaurant named Hotel-Restaurant Rosegarten. The building was built in 1620 and has been a hotel since 1876. The people were very friendly, making our decision to continue that much more difficult. Zeigenhain was a fortress in years past. Today, it appears that the fortress is the current day jail. The center of town seems to be under construction at the moment so we are glad for our decision to continue. Photo 285 pattern and 286 is Hotel Landgraf in Zeigenhain Leaving Zeigenhain we leave R-4 behind and follow R-17 to Neukirchen. From there, the map indicates that we should follow R-11 into Neideraula on the Fulda but as you will see, we do not do so.

Neukirchen ChurchMile 26.4 (58.5 km): In Neukirchen, we stop for the night at Hotel Restaurant Zur Stadt Cassel. Kurhessenstr. 56; 34626 Neukirchen; telephone 06694/216 €65 for two people for one night including breakfast buffet. The rooms are modern but the building is “Asbach” (German slang for “very old.”) We see on the map that we must climb over a watershed divide between here and Neideraula. We wanted to rest up for that climb and tackle it in the morning. You have undoubtedly heard the tales of Little Red Riding Hood and Snow White. They lived, if at all because they are the subject of fairytales, you know, in the Schalm River area. Snow White lived around the small village of Bergfreiheit in the Kellerwald where she cavorted with Dopey and his friends. We did not ride to Bergfreiheit since it was a few kilometers off the path.

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Day 5: Neukirchen to Bebra and a side trip to Rotenburg an der Fulda

Day Overview: Today we ride to Bebra and then take a side trip to Rotenburg a.d. Fulda.  We start the day on the currently unsigned paved railroad grade path that we began yesterday. Our hostess from the hotel last evening told us that the paved grade went at least most of the way to Olberode. We are happy to report that the paved even grade goes beyond the top of the hill to Oberaula, and even a bit beyond. I say ‘currently unsigned’ because we are supposed to follow R-11 but that route climbs the hill more directly and more steeply than the railroad grade we use. R-11 also uses roads that we must share with automobiles. In contrast, the cycle and pedestrian-only railroad grade makes a longer looping route to Oberaula – as is the manner of railroad grades.

Mile 0.3 (0.5 km): Leaving our hotel in the center of Neukirchen, we find our way back to the paved railroad grade.

Mile 10.3 (16.5 km): We pass Olberode, the top of the watershed divide between the Schwalm-Eder and the Fulda drainages.

Mile 14.5 (23.4 km): After climbing over 500 feet, we drop into the top of the Aula Valley and find the end of the path that we have enjoyed immensely. At the end of the path, we are directed to the R-11 path, which continues downhill to Neideraula and the Fulda River.

Steam powered rollerMile 19.3 (31.0 km): In Kirscheim, we seek a place for a coffee break and a grocery store to acquire our picnic lunch. We pass a cute Konditorei, on the way to the grocery store but once we have our lunch we just press on down the valley without going back to the Konditorei.

Mile 23.9 (38.5 km): In Neideraula we stop for a coffee break (finally) before crossing the bridge over the Fulda and joining the R-1 path.

Mile 28.0 (45.0 km): We cross the Fulda to the left bank at Kohlhausen.

Mile 42.8 (68.9 km): This is Bebra. The Märchen Route bicycle path goes from here into Sontra climbing the hill over the watershed divide. However, we opt to ride first to Rotenburg a.d. Fulda for our overnight stay. Tomorrow, we will ride back to Lispenhausen refreshed and climb over the hill into Sontra and on to Eschwege. Rotenburg is a particularly beautiful city and if you can, we recommend a visit.Rotenburg / FuldaRotenburg / FuldaRotenburg / FuldaRotenburg / FuldaRotenburg / FuldaRotenburg / FuldaRotenburg / FuldaRotenburg / Fulda

Rotenburg / Fulda

Mile 46.9 (75.4): We overnight in beautiful Rotenburg an der Fulda. OK, it is not on the Fairytale path but we are traveling with Rick and Susan and we wanted to show them one of the prettier towns in North Hesse. The photographs are from Rotenburg.

Day 6: Rotenburg / Fulda to Eschwege

Day Overview: Today is mostly paved but very hilly. Eat a big breakfast, you will burn many calories today so do not worry about weight gain.

Mile 2.4 (3.8 km): So refreshed by our overnight in Rotenburg / Fulda, we ride back to Lispenhausen and begin the climb on the low traffic Landstrasse toward Sontra. The cycle path signs are R-5.

Mile 4.4 (7.1 km): In Schwartzenhasel, the R-5 signs take you to the right to a path that eventually turns to gravel as it climbs over the hill. We opt to stay on the road but what we are doing is less safe but more paved than where the R-5 will take one.

Mile 7.5 (12.0 km): This is the top of the watershed divide and a good thing too. We are glad the hill is now behind us.

Mile 15.3 (24.6 km): In the pretty town of Sontra, we take a break from the heat of the day at an ice cream café. From here we will follow the Sontra Creek downhill to Witchmanshausen. Today is hot and we are going through water like it is coming out of a fire hydrant.

Mile 18.6 (30.0 km): Witchmanshausen is in a valley that the alternative route traverses on the Herkules-Wartburg Radweg, so we will see these signs often for the rest of the day and most of the day tomorrow. We have been climbing slowly but surely since Reichensachsen too.Tandem sculpture

Shortly after Witchmanshausen, our order-of-march (a military term) is: Susan, Rick, Tim, and Maxa. Susan turned following the path sign but Rick, looking around, missed seeing her turn. When he did see her, she was on the path ahead but he had gone past the corner. I (Tim) saw the sign and turned but Rick did not see me do so as he was busy making a tight 180 turn so he could follow Susan. By the time Rick got around the corner, we were side by side but Rick was still turning and suddenly, he seemed to want to be on the same piece of pavement that I occupied. We fell over. I rolled down a short but steep hill a few feet and stopped just shy of the creek. Rick was tangled in the two bicycles. Maxa helped Rick untangle himself while I climbed back up the hill, which is full of stinging nettles. Rick had a few scrapes but neither of us was badly hurt. He had lost his camera but noticed it missing only 500 meters down the path. While waiting for him to return my front tire blew and went flat. Fortunately, I had a spare tube and a few minutes later, we were on our way again.Canola Field

Mile 25.0 (40.2 km): Reichensachsen is at the bottom of a 400-foot hill that we must ride over to get to Eschwege. While the hill does raise your heart rate, it is gentle enough that you probably will not have to push up it.

Mile 29.8 (48.9 km): In Eschwege, we stop for the night at Hotel Deutsches Haus at Schloss Platz 7, telephone 05651/31180 or 05651/13780 €60 per room per night for 2 people. They have 11 rooms and a good breakfast is included. Rooms are small but clean. We have had enough hills for one day, though tomorrow we will not find any hills until after Witzenhausen.EschwegeEschwegeWerra near Eschwege

Day 7: Eschewege to Kassel

Day Overview: Again today, the path is mostly paved and it is flat along the Werra River. We turn away from the river at Witzenhausen. Then we cross another watershed divide into the Lossetal or Losse Creek Valley. It is a longer day than we normally ride but the last 16 miles (25.3 kilometers) is all downhill. (He said with a twinkle in his eye.)

Mile 3.2 (5.2 km): The village of Jestead.Burg Rotenstein Allendorf

Mile 11.7 (18.9 km): We see Burg Rotenstein above us on the hill. this is just one of several castles we see along the way.Allendorf from Bad Sooden

Mile 15.0 (24.0 km): After a 100-foot hill, we enter Allendorf, or since two smaller cities are combined into one, Bad Sooden-Allendorf. In Germany, any town with the word Bad in the name is a spa town where citizens can go for an insurance paid-for cure of whatever ails them. It is a wonderful system unless you have to pay taxes to support it. Bad Sooden is one such a town. They have a Gradiernwerk here but since that word does not translate to English, I call it a “salt wall”. A Gradiernwerk is a wall built several feet thick and about 20 feet high filled in the middle with twigs. Pipes dribble saltwater or mineral water over the twigs and it evaporates, leaving the salty residue behind. The air close to the wall is moist and cool from the evaporation. People say that spending time, like hours, in that air is healthy. I do not know about that either.Lindenwerra BridgeGradiernwerk or salt wallLunch outside LindenwerraIron Curtain sign

Mile 19.2 (30.9 km): We break for lunch in Lindenwerra. The bridge shown here was built after the wall came down but this part of the Werra River was the border between East and West Germany. The sign depicts where the Iron Curtain, as it was called divided Germany for over 40 years.

Mile 21.8 (35.2 km): Middle of Wareleshausen.Burg Hanstein perhaps

On our way to Witzenhausen, we see Burg Ludwigstein on the hill. Burg Ludwigstein is the subject of a short fable in the area. It seems that the Burg, or castle in English, was built by a Landgraf, or prince, to protect the surrounding area from the “robber knights” who occupied Burg Hanstein close by. In those days, there were many knights who had resorted to robbing peasants and merchants to make a living. There were times during the Middle Ages when there was little in the way of warfare where knightly services could be paid for by the belligerents. The story goes that the castle, Burg Ludwigstein, was built so quickly as to create a belief that the Landgraf was in league with the devil. The proof of the fable is in the likeness of the Landgraf's head, which appears in a stone wall of the castle. I am just reporting here, I do not claim to believe this fable.

Mile 27.9 (44.9 km): In Witzenhausen we pause to take some photographs. For a small town, they have a huge church.Witzenhausen church interiorWitzenhausen church interiorWitzenhausen churchWitzenhausenWitzenhausenWitzenhausen bridgeWitzenhausen

The mapped route takes you through town on a busy road but we avoid the busy road by first taking a short tour of the altstadt then riding on the sidewalk until we get to the intersection with a Landstrasse named Am Stieg. We turn left on Am Stieg and one block later we turn right and ride along Im Kleinen Felde until we see the first underpass under the old railroad tracks (the tracks no longer in use). On the other side of the tracks is the path.

Mile 29.1 (46.9 km): Two signs are marking the path on the other side of the tracks, a Herkules-Wartburg path sign and another marked with an “M.”

Mile 31.9 (51.3 km): In Hundelshausen the various half-timbered buildings impressed me as well as the church.Hundelshausen church

Mile 34.7 (55.9 km): Leaving Trubenhausen, the path parallels the Bundesstrasse until an intersection with a Landstrasse from the west. There we cross that Landstrasse.

Mile 35.5 (57.1 km): After crossing the Bundesstrasse, we climb an 80-foot pitch for 500 meters.Grossalmerode RathausGrossalmerode

Mile 36.5 (58.8 km): As we approach the city of Grossalmerode we rejoin the Bundesstrasse and ride on the sidewalk through town. In the middle of the Kaufunger Wald, the town is famous for the quality of sand and clay that can be found nearby. The two raw materials are the basis for high-quality glass and pottery. The motto of the town is “Stadt der gutten Tons” or The City of Good Clay.

Mile 37.7 (60.6 km): Leaving Grossalmerode, the sidewalk ends and we have to share the road, a Bundesstrasse with lots of commercial (read that as trucks) traffic and no shoulder at all. We are climbing a fairly steep hill so our speed is, ... well, slow. Still, we have to climb to the top, another 300 feet.Wickenrode

Mile 38.1 (61.3 km): We finally can turn left off the Bundesstrasse at the top of the hill. There are no cycle path signs here but there is a small road leading to the left with a sign for Reiterhof Hirschberg. The map shows that if you keep to the right on that road, it will take you through Wickenrode, which is where we want to be. Totally, we climb about 400 feet from just before Grossalmerode; and over 1,000 feet since leaving Witzenhausen. But, hey! It is all downhill from here.Helsa

Mile 41.6 (66.9 km): After a section of gravel path, we come into Helsa. They have a huge church as well for the size of the community today. In Helsa, we rejoin the Herkules-Wartburg cycle path for the rest of the way into Kassel. There are other path signs here but only an occasional sticker of the Märchen Route.Helsa sign to Mittelmuehle water wheelHelsaHelsa water wheel mill

Mile 45.1 (72.5 km): Sculpture in KaufungenGrain harvesting near KaufengenIn Kaufungen, I photographed the sculpture in front of their Rathaus. Even if it is a recently sculptured piece of art, I love it for the scene it depicts. A fat momma who is watching out for her daughter who is oblivious of the family and engrossed in her cassette tape Walkman, a skinny husband who is watching his skinny son skateboarding. Except for not using walkmans anymore, it is a contemporary scene.

Mile 49.0 (78.9 km): We are in early July but the photograph shows the farmers combining barley; hopefully to be used in this year’s beer production. I notice this because on the ranch where I grew up, one did not harvest grain until late August at the earliest. That just shows you what more rain and longer days can do for a harvest.

Mile 53.5 (86.1 km): We are still following the Herkules-Wartburg signs through a large park right into Kassel over the bridge near the swimming pool (Fribad Auebad).Orangerie Kassel

Mile 54.1 (87.0 km): This is the Orangerie and the end of the ride. As the Märchen Route Guidebook says, you can relax here in Karlsaue park, or climb the short hill into downtown Kassel to shop, or catch a train either at the Kassel Hauptbahnhof near downtown or ride the 2.9 miles (4.6 kilometers) to the ICE train station Bahnhof Wilhelmshöhe east of downtown.

Here are some translations relating to the fairytales mentioned here

German Name English Name Location or Site
Aschenputtel Cinderella Polle (on Weser)
Dornröschen Sleeping Beauty Sababurg
Hans im Glück Hans in Luck or Lucky Hans Fuldatal
Hänsel und Grethel Hansel and Gretel Reinhardswald (by Reinhardshagen)
Rapunzel Rapunzel Trendelburg
Rotkäppchen Little Red Riding Hood Schwalmstadt
Schneewittchen Snow White Zwesten and Bergfreiheit

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